One hundred years ago today, for the first time in our countries history, some women gained the right to vote. The Vote for women was part of a gradual improvement in rights that had been going on throughout the 19th century. The campaign not only focused on the right to vote, but the right to divorce a husband, the right to an education and the right to hold a professional job, such as a doctor, rights we take for granted every day.
The National Union of Women’s Suffrage [Suffrage: the right to vote in political elections.] Societies – the Suffragists [Suffragists: a member of the NUWSS who wished to obtain the vote through peaceful means – led by Millicent Fawcett], was formed in 1897. The group, made up mainly of middle class women successfully built up support from parliament.
In 1903 The Women’s Social and Political Union was formed, led by Emmeline Pankhurst. This middle class group of women, heckled politicians, held marches, chained themselves to railings, set fire to buildings, threw bombs and went on hunger strike when they were sent to prison. One suffragette, Emily Davidson, ran out in front of the king’s horse during the Derby of 1913 and was killed.
It was, thankfully not in vain. In 1918, 100 years ago today, the Representation of the People Act gave women over 30 the right to vote and in 1928 this was extended to all women over the age of 21.
We must not forget that these women sacrificed their lives, sanity and at times dignity to allow women this right. Without the Suffragettes, we wouldn’t have the ability to have our voices heard.
Even today women typically earn 17% less than male colleagues in jobs in the same role and social and economic outcomes are lower for single mothers than any of group in the UK.
The #timesup and #metoo movements that have recently been in the media show that some men are still abusing positions of power. The Sufferagettes started something we cannot ignore. Your right to vote isn’t just a piece of paper that you cross at your local voting booth, its about your rights as a woman, make sure you use this right others fought so hard for.
We thank you Emmeline, Emily, Kate, Millicent, Susan, Elizabeth, Kate and the thousands of women who fought for us and empowered us to have our voice.
Happy 100 Years our loves x